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Case Study/Profile

Expanding Apprenticeship to Human Resources with JFF, SHRM Partnership

May 26, 2022

At a Glance

One of the first national HR apprenticeship programs is underway, thanks to support from DOL , JFF, and a strong industry sponsor.

Connecting workers to high-growth careers is a foundation of Registered Apprenticeship, and the human resources field presents a prime opportunity, with projected growth of 10 percent by 2030.

To prepare for this growth, Jobs for the Future (JFF) partnered with the SHRM Foundation—the philanthropic arm of the Society for Human Resource Management—over the last two years to develop one of the first national Registered Apprenticeship programs for human resource specialists. As a result, SHRM has successfully launched its first program in HR, created an HR apprenticeship program at a global industrial manufacturer, and demonstrated how apprenticeship can help create an inclusive and skilled workforce in a wide range of fields beyond labor and manufacturing.

Empowering HR Professionals

“We have to attract the next generation of HR leaders, empower our profession to create inclusive workplaces, and showcase HR as a highly valued, highly desired, and highly skilled calling,” says Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, at the apprenticeship signing ceremony. “[HR professionals] have to be equipped with the knowledge and the behaviors for this craft. That’s why a program like HR RAP that builds the HR talent pipeline and trains future HR pros to build inclusive organizations is so important. Fostering excellence and inclusion in HR is not just good for business, it’s good for society.”

To bring this program from idea to implementation, SHRM asked JFF to join their application to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Apprenticeship’s Closing the Skills Gap program. SHRM was awarded the grant in February 2020 to pursue the development of a national program and register 800 apprentices by 2024, with JFF serving as subject matter experts to support program development. With collaboration from the Institute for American Apprenticeships, JFF and SHRM co-designed a program through a careful sequence of steps:

  • Providing a job task analysis for the HR specialist position to articulate how the on-the-job learning, related technical instruction, and the identified skills and competencies could be integrated into an apprenticeship model
  • Aligning the apprenticeship program to SHRM’s existing Competency Model, course offerings, and framework that identifies the competencies and knowledge necessary for effective practice as an HR professional
  • Helping the SHRM Foundation prepare the requisite apprenticeship application materials for DOL to approve a national program, commonly referred to as National Program Standards of Apprenticeship. These are programs consisting of a uniform and high-quality set of occupational standards which have been developed and sponsored by a trade organization like SHRM, are suitable for adoption on a nationwide basis, and have been approved as meeting the National Program Standards criteria by the Administrator of the Office of Apprenticeship
  • Reaching out to a range of employers, colleges, and workforce experts to drive the demand of this new program
  • Working with local DOL officials and State Apprenticeship Agencies to ensure the acceptance and expansion of this program

In March 2021, the SHRM Foundation rolled out this program to industry partners with a virtual apprenticeship signing ceremony. New Hampshire-based Hypertherm, a global industrial manufacturer that designs and builds advanced cutting solutions, was the first company to participate in the SHRM HR RAP program. Hypertherm had been using the apprenticeship model to train machine operators for more than a decade and jumped at the chance to expand. Their first HR apprentice was a successful manufacturing apprentice who demonstrated other administrative, management, and people skills that could be a fit elsewhere in the company.

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Apprenticeships are a really important way for Hypertherm to build careers as well as to diversify our workforce and build opportunities for anyone who wants to seek a career. We see this as a really important way to earn and learn, and to build skills and a very meaningful career path.

Jenny Levy, Executive Vice President of People, Community, and Environment at Hypertherm

Training the Next Generation of HR Specialists

As most apprenticeship professionals know, it can take a while to socialize and scale a new apprenticeship program within the industry, and to get others to participate in a new and innovative approach. While some companies have been taking advantage of this novel approach in the industry, there is still a long way to go towards more universal acceptance of apprenticeships in the HR industry.

SHRM’s quality training materials and ability to reach thousands of companies and HR leaders through their networks can help drive this acceptance, growing this program so that young people interested in an HR career path can now participate in a quality apprenticeship, earn a nationally recognized SHRM-Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) credential, and become a Human Resource Specialist upon completion of the program.

Fostering excellence and inclusion in HR is not just good for business, it’s good for society.

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management

“This is the right program at the right time, coming amid growing interest in Registered Apprenticeships and their proven success in meeting the needs of employers while allowing individuals to earn while they learn,” said Taylor. “I believe that HR RAP will provide the essential building blocks for an innovative, inclusive, and much more competitive HR profession of the future.”

Effective partnerships such as this SHRM Foundation and JFF collaboration can significantly accelerate the design, development, and approval of high-quality apprenticeship programs, especially in a new industry and occupation. With SHRM’s vision, enthusiasm, and existing resources, and JFF’s technical knowledge of designing and developing high-quality registered apprenticeship programs, the HR industry is now poised to address anticipated growth and to chart a future course for effectively training the next generation of HR Specialists.